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Energy Colonialism and Nuclear Cyberwar: From Russia to the United States

Svitlana Matviyenko's book "Nuclear Cyberwar: From Energy Colonialism to Energy Terrorism" discusses the intersection of nuclear energy, cyberwarfare, and global politics. The book highlights the ways in which cyberwarfare can be used to target nuclear power plants and other critical energy infrastructure, and the resulting impact on global security.


One of the key themes of the book is the importance of forensic architecture and nuanced methods of evidence production. Matviyenko argues that traditional methods of evidence collection and analysis can result in computational and confirmation biases, leading to flawed conclusions and misguided policy decisions.

To illustrate this point, the book provides examples of how datasets, visualizations, and desensitization can all contribute to bias in forensic analysis. For instance, the use of satellite imagery to analyze nuclear facilities can lead to confirmation bias if analysts are only looking for specific features or patterns that align with preconceived notions about nuclear programs. Similarly, the use of data visualization tools can obscure important nuances or anomalies in the data, leading to incomplete or inaccurate conclusions.

Powell's images of Taji before the Iraq War, 2003, image sourced from CBS News

Colin Powell's 2003 speech to the United Nations about potential weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a pivotal moment in the lead up to the Iraq War. One of the key elements of Powell's speech was his use of satellite imagery to demonstrate the presence of supposed WMD facilities in Taji. Powell's rhetoric was carefully crafted to imply that only professional military personnel could fully understand the significance of this imagery. This approach effectively gave his claims an air of authority and legitimacy that helped to influence the decision to go to war. However, as subsequent events showed, the intelligence upon which Powell's speech was based turned out to be flawed, and no WMDs were ever found in Iraq. The aftermath of the war continues to be debated and discussed to this day.



Svitlana Matviyenko then argues that the unequal distribution of energy resources and the resulting geopolitical tensions can increase the likelihood of nuclear cyber attacks. This is what she refers to as "energy colonialism." A prime example given by Svitlana of energy colonialism is the current relationship and rising tension in wartime between Russia and Ukraine. Russia has historically been the primary supplier of natural gas to many countries in Europe and Ukraine, which has made Ukraine vulnerable to Russia's political and economic influence. This has led to a number of disputes and conflicts between the two countries, including the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Basque mapping, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another example of energy colonialism is the relationship between the United States and the Middle East. The United States has historically been heavily dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, which has led to political tensions and conflicts in the region. This has also made the United States vulnerable to cyber attacks on critical energy infrastructure, as seen in the 2012 attack on Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil producer.

Superboy 1989, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Overall, energy colonialism can exacerbate political tensions and increase the likelihood of cyber attacks on critical energy infrastructure. As such, addressing the root causes of energy colonialism and promoting energy independence and security are critical to preventing nuclear cyberwarfare.

Matviyenko's book provides a thought-provoking analysis of the complex interplay between nuclear energy, cyberwarfare, and global politics. By highlighting the importance of nuanced evidence production and analysis, the book offers a valuable contribution to the field of security studies and provides insights into how policymakers can better address the threats posed by nuclear cyberwarfare.

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